Public Promenade

Public Promenade

Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Equipment and Infrastructures

This was the first public garden built in Portuguese America, being the work of the Viceroy Luiz de Vasconcellos between 1779 and 1783. It was located on the land that was reclaimed from a lagoon close to the Viceroy’s residence and the design of its layout is surely due to him. Its unusual shape, a trapezoidal quadrangle, roughly reproduces that of the lagoon. The walled garden was criss-crossed by perpendicular avenues lined with tropical species – mango trees, jacktrees, tamarind trees and jambo trees, guaranteeing shade for visitors and the features of a scented garden. The rows of trees ended by the sea at a rectangular terrace paved with flagstones and surrounded by low walls shaped like stone benches with tiled backs. The Public Promenade introduced people to the contemplative relationship between the city and the landscape. Master Valentim was responsible for the sculptures decorating the garden and also for its layout according to some authors. He used elements from antiquity, such as the two granite pyramids with triangular bases in the main avenue, which bear lias plaques celebrating the Viceroy’s relationship with the city: For the love of the public and Greetings from Rio, or the illustrated celebration of nature in the fountain with bronze alligators in the midst of the vegetation or in the fountain of the winged cupid holding, in one of his hands, a tortoise that pours water into a vat and, in the other, a sash with the inscription I am useful even when playing. Today, the garden is surrounded by railings instead of the original wall. The present-day layout of the avenues, designed in the romantic style, dates back to the second half of the 19th century. In addition to the sculptures inside the garden, the original gate, composed of Ionic granite pilasters crowned by urns, and the gate with the effigies of Queen Dona Maria I and King Pedro III have all survived.

José Simões Belmont Pessôa